President Barack Obama on Thursday defended his namesake health care program, long a target of Republicans and recently criticized by some Democrats, saying millions of Americans "now know the financial security of health insurance" because of the Affordable Care Act.
"It's worked," he said, even while allowing that the program isn't perfect. "No law is."
Obama chalked up the Republican criticism to "nothing more than politics" and GOP envy that "a Democratic president named Barack Obama passed the law. That's just the truth."
He called on both parties to set aside the "political rhetoric" and "be honest about what's working, what needs fixing and how we fix it."
Obama said repealing the law, as congressional Republicans repeatedly have failed to do, won't solve the problem "because right off the bat repeal would take away health care from 20 million people" and affect millions of other health care consumers.
Less than two weeks before people can start to enroll in the overhaul's health plans on Nov. 1, Obama used a speech at a Florida college to kick off a push by the administration to encourage more people to sign up, with a particular emphasis on young adults.
Obama wants to burnish his legacy as the president who, after decades of failed attempts by Washington, finally brought health care to millions. But what he attempted Thursday was a difficult sales job, as the 2010 law faces some new and troubling challenges.
Premiums are rising by double digits in many parts of the country and some major insurers have quit the program, leaving consumers with few choices next year and contributing to higher prices.
Democratic allies recently criticized the law. Former President Bill Clinton, while campaigning in support of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, called the law "the craziest thing in the world." Gov. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., said it is "no longer affordable."
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said this week that she expects 13.8 million people will sign up for 2017 coverage, a modest increase over the 12.7 million consumers who picked health insurance plans during open enrollment for this year.